You’ve given your tenant a 14 day eviction notice or the tenants fixed term lease is coming to an end and you suddenly discover your tenant has no intent of moving out, now what? You’re being held hostage at this point by what is known as overholding tenants.
The Residential Tenancy Act refers to tenants who stay past the end of a lease as overholding and their is a process to get them out. The same with tenants who have stayed past the eviction date.
Unfortunately the process involves either going to court or via the RTDRS and this can add another week or two to their stay.
Now, before we go into what to do, here are some tips on how to avoid it happening in the future and what you can do to help tenants move along.
I’m not advocating lying about tenants, their habits or their quality, but as their current landlord, you hold some significant leverage over them when it comes to their chances of acquiring their next rental property and you need to use that leverage. This is especially handy when it comes to tenants coming to an end of a fixed term lease that does not have an option to default into a month to month lease.
You need to make them aware that they will require your reference as their current landlord, especially when the rental market is tighter. Without a good landlord reference, their odds of finding a good safe place to live goes down drastically. Or they have to hope they find a landlord who doesn’t bother to check references, which hopefully would be none of the readers of this article.
Again, this requires a certain amount of discretion. If the tenants are the worst possible tenants anyone could ever have, you cannot tell another landlord they would make ideal tenants. If they are tenants who just need a nudge every now and then about certain things, like paying rent on time or cleaning the yard, that is a different matter.
This is also why I recommend when you screen tenants you don’t put as much faith in their current landlord (who may have an alternate agenda as in “I have to do whatever I can to get rid of these people!”) as you do in prior landlords. (If you’re unsure about what you need to do to properly screen tenants, be sure to check out the 30 minute video I created on How To Screen Tenants)
Being Pro-Active With Tenants – Fixed Term Leases
When you have a tenant who is coming to the end of the term and you do not intend on renewing, you need to make it clear that you are in control. First and foremost make sure you provide the tenant at least a month’s notice in writing that you will not be renewing.
By having it in writing and giving them plenty of notice it will provide them with very little in the way of excuses. Under the Residential Tenancy Act it does not state a notice period or that the landlord even has to provide written notice that they will not be renewing, but not doing so has backfired on other landlords.
When it comes to protecting the tenant versus the landlord and there is no definitive evidence, the judges and the hearing officers often default to protecting the tenants. Verbally telling the tenant you are not renewing could result in a he said/she said routine, by having written notice in advance there is no grey area.
Being Pro-Active With Tenants – Eviction Notices
If you’ve given your tenant a 14 day or 24 hour eviction notice, you need to make sure they understand the process. If you have properly prepared and understand the process your odds of successfully evicting a tenant are very good. If not, you have less than a 50% chance of getting a timely eviction.
Now for serious offenses I advocate skipping an eviction notice and filing directly with the RTDRS or the courts immediately, you do not need to give tenant an eviction notice first. (For more on that, check out this post, Use The RTDRS to Evict Problem Tenants).
If you are going the eviction notice route, make sure you understand it and have the proper eviction notices. Using an improper eviction notice can void the eviction, delay the tenant being evicted or worse yet get your case thrown out. (For proper eviction notices purchase my Eviction Forms Package or my Eviction Guide for Landlords which includes them as well.
Inform the tenant about their options. If the eviction is strictly for non-payment or late payment, as long as they pay the outstanding amount in full prior to the eviction date on the notice they can stay. This should actually be stated on your eviction notice or it may be invalid.
If the eviction is for other breaches of the lease or continuous late payments where paying you in full will not fix the breaches, you need to make sure the tenant is aware of this. Let them know that if they are not gone by the eviction date you will be using the legal process to not only have them removed, but if they owe money to you for damages or outstanding rent that you will pursue a judgment against them that will impair their credit as well. You need to make sure you are in control, without being threatening.
By following these basics you can impress upon your tenant that you are serious and that you will do what it takes to achieve the outcome you are looking for whether it be collecting outstanding rent or having the tenant leave. By skipping steps or not getting everything in writing, you can set yourself up for a much more difficult experience.
When Tenants Just Won’t Leave
So, fast forwarding, the tenant hasn’t left, the eviction date or the end of term has passed, what is your next step. The next option is going directly to the RTDRS or the court house and filing and application to evict the tenants.
Hopefully in the days leading up to the eviction date you have been documenting everything that took place and have adequately prepared for the worst. If you are positive that the tenant won’t be leaving by the eviction date or the end of the term it is possible to file for a hearing in advance, but the hearing won’t be until after the date they were to be out has passed and they may want to push this back to give the tenants as much time as possible.
If you are filing via the courthouse it will cost you $100 and via the RTDRS it will be a $75 charge, either of which you can apply towards any outstanding monies the tenants owe or as costs associated to the eviction.
Once you have the hearing the judge or hearing officer will come up with a judgment and provide a court ordered date that the tenant has to be out. This date is determined by multiple factors, some of which are out of your control and others directly in your control.
If there are children involved, it could add as much as a month to provide adequate time for the family to find new accommodations. If you didn’t follow proper procedures or didn’t follow the correct processes, it could nullify the entire eviction and leave your fixed term lease as a month to month lease or your eviction for a breach of the lease in limbo and have you starting over.
If you diligently documented everything, notified the tenant and updated them with the options, repercussions and can show you tried to work with them, your eviction can be much quicker. While the system does try to prevent tenants from being thrown out on the street unjustly, it also is aware of tenants who simply don’t get it and will assist landlords in this manner.
Having tenants overhold or stay past the end of their lease or eviction is not the end of the world. It can be a pain, it can delay you moving forward, but if you follow some of the landlord advice on this page it can go a long way to helping you get the results you needed and regaining control of your property.
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